July 1, 2008
As we begin together the next phase in the proud history of Elmhurst College, I would like to share with you an exciting initiative which will take shape in the weeks and months ahead. In the coming academic year we will initiate and complete a comprehensive strategic planning process that will provide the College with a clear direction for the next five years and beyond. When final, the Strategic Plan for Elmhurst College will build on the substantial work performed under President Cureton's leadership. It will articulate a concrete set of goals and objectives for the College consistent with our mission and vision.
I anticipate that the planning process will build on the many opportunities we have to choose from as well as address the key issues we face. These include the optimum size and composition of the undergraduate student body, the place of graduate programs in our academic universe, the place of faculty research, scholarship, and artistic performance in relationship to classroom instruction, and the definition of diversity and the challenge of making the College more representative of the larger world.
I encourage everyone to think broadly: how do we understand the relationship between professional preparation and liberal education at Elmhurst College? What kind of experience should our students expect to have while they are learning? What will best prepare our students for rewarding careers, not just jobs, and not just today, but in five years and ten? What does it mean to claim, as we do, a lively affiliation with the United Church of Christ and a living heritage with the thought and examples of Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr? What should Elmhurst College aspire to be among colleges in the region, in the nation, and in the world?
Our work, while expansive, will nonetheless be grounded in reality. The Strategic Plan that emerges will take into account our overall financial situation, both present and foreseeable. We will examine what constrains us from moving in certain directions, and determine which of these constraints—financial, geographical, perhaps cultural or political—are within our power to change, if we put our minds to doing so, and which are fixed or nonnegotiable, for reasons of mission, resources, or various externalities. We will set expectations that are achievable, assessable, and responsive to the virtue of accountability. We will aim to provide real answers to large questions, and in so doing, chart a course for Elmhurst College into the future.
Here is how the strategic planning process will be organized.
The nucleus of the planning group will consist of the existing President's Advisory Council on Strategic Planning (ACSP), consisting of faculty representatives, student representatives, key administrators including the members of my Cabinet, and representatives of the Board of Trustees. I will also be an active participant. Above all, the strategic planning process will be comprehensive: all of the College's stakeholders—students, faculty, staff and administrators, as well as alumni/ae, members of the Board of Trustees, and Elmhurst community members—will have opportunities to provide ideas and respond to work in progress. The planning group will carefully consider all points of view. I emphasize: this will very much be the College's strategic plan. At the conclusion of the process, the ACSP will recommend a Strategic Plan for Elmhurst College for adoption.
To assist us, I have engaged the services of Dowling Consulting Services, Inc., a firm well known to me. DCS brings more than 33 years of successful experience in advising organizations in both the public and private sectors. The firm's principal, Tom Dowling, will act as the College's facilitator for strategic planning. We will formally begin our work with a week-long series of sessions from August 11th through the 15th. We will continue meeting throughout the fall and winter and conclude our work by March 1, 2009. The process of implementing the Strategic Plan will begin once it is formally approved.
The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant famously said there were three questions worthy of modern attention: What can I know? What ought I do? For what may I hope? In essence, strategic planning tries to answer these questions for an institution by drawing from the wisdom of collective experience. We will answer them in our own way, together, as we plan the future of Elmhurst College. I look forward with excitement to the year ahead, and the prospect of making great strides thanks to your wisdom, experience, and enthusiasm.
S. Alan Ray